The Miser’s 3 Things:

  1. Buying a lunch during work is an easy trap to fall into. You’re busy. Co-workers invite you out. But you’re suffering from Expensive Lunch Syndrome.
  2. Simply making your lunch (recipes below!) before work can save you up to $1,170 a year! There are health benefits, too.
  3. If you can’t quit cold turkey, consider doing it in stages.

Around his co-workers, The Miser is now known as “the guy who brings his lunch every day.” A few of them think it’s kind of strange.

But in his first job after college, The Miser fell victim to a busy schedule and co-workers who wanted to eat lunch at restaurants — a habit that turned out to be neither smart nor miserly. This was especially bad because The Miser made less money then.

In those days, I bought a lunch at least twice a week. That usually involved a sandwich and chips, coming out to about $7.50. It was easy, and the food tasted good.

We’ll call this Expensive Lunch Syndrome, an affliction facing many working Americans. Luckily, there’s a cure.

After a couple years of eating out for lunch, I began to see how much I could save if I could only be more disciplined about making my lunch instead. You’ll see what kind of savings are possible from the DIY method in a little bit.

The Miser’s sandwich recipes

Today, I’m turning my personal finance blog into a food blog because, in order to cure Expensive Lunch Syndrome, there’s one key. You’ve got to vary your sandwiches week to week.

That way, you don’t get tired of eating the same thing Every. Single. Day. Of. Your. Life.

And with that, my recipes:

Turkey a la Miser (pictured)

  • 2 slices of wheat bread
  • 3 slices of oven roasted turkey
  • 1 slice of muenster cheese
  • 2 slices of roma tomato
  • 1 leaf of lettuce, washed and dried
  • 1 teaspoon mayo
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Directions: Cut two slices of whole wheat bread (or buy presliced wheat bread). Put three slices of oven roasted turkey (purchased from the deli section) on one of the slices of bread. Put one slice of muenster cheese on top of the turkey. Cut two slices 1/4 inch thick or less of roma tomato, and put the slices on top of the cheese. Chop a leaf of leafy green lettuce to fit on top of the tomato slices. Spread the mayo and dijon mustard on top of the second bread slice, and put this slice on top of the sandwich.

The Miser’s Italian

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 slices ham
  • 3 slices salami
  • 1 slice provalone cheese
  • 2 slices of roma tomato
  • 1 leaf of lettuce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinaigrette (or pesto)

Directions: Cut two slices of sourdough bread (buy fresh). Put two slices of ham (purchased from the deli section) on one of the slices of bread. Put three slices of deli salami on top of the ham. Put one slice of provalone cheese on top of the deli meat. Cut two slices 1/4 inch thick or less of roma tomato, and put the slices on top of the cheese.Chop a leaf of leafy green lettuce to fit on top of the tomato slices. Spread the balsamic vinaigrette (or pesto) on the second bread slice, and put this slice on top of the sandwich.

Sorry, no calorie count available on The Millennial Miser. (Also, these recipes are not exactly groundbreaking.)

We interrupt this program to tell you about lettuce

Until a few weeks ago, The Miser always bought bagged, shredded lettuce. What was he thinking?

The opposite of miserly is wasting. Bagged, shredded lettuce is wasting.

Turns out, the pre-washed bagged lettuce actually isn’t that clean and you still need to wash it. And shredding any food makes it go bad faster. And it’s more expensive ($2.50 per bag, for which I get three days’ use, versus about $2 for a head of leafy green lettuce, which I now buy and use all week).

The cost of a lunch, explained

DIY Model: To make my lunch, I’ve calculated $15 for my weekly expenses, including the lunch meat ($6.50), cheese ($2), bread ($2.50), lettuce ($1 — I use half of the lettuce for salads at dinnertime), tomato (50 cents), condiments (25 cents), chips (25 cents), a banana or apple ($1) and a couple of homemade cookies a day ($1). Total cost: $780 per year.

Eat Out Twice A Week Model: Let’s use my example from the start of my career, when I would go out for lunch twice a week. That’s $15 a week, or $780 a year. Then you have to add the cost of making your lunch the other three days, which is $9 per week, or $468 a year. Total cost: $1,248 per year.

Buy Lunch Every Day Model: If you went out to eat every day and bought a $7.50 lunch (sandwich and chips), that’s $37.50 a week. Total cost: $1,950 a year.

The savings, financially and health-wise

If you’re a person who buys lunch every day, you could literally save $1,170 a year just by making a sandwich every night before you go to bed.

But I can’t claim that much savings, because I wasn’t buying lunch every day.

Instead, by cutting back from twice a week to never buying a lunch, I am saving $468 a year.

And this isn’t even factoring in the health benefits. By making your lunch, you’re able to somewhat control what’s going into your lunch bag. At least you know where you bought the sandwich items. You even made the cookies!

If you go out, someone else has already made those decisions for you. You don’t know where any of the ingredients came from.

Cold turkey vs. just cutting back

If you were only going out to eat twice a week like me, it’s not so difficult to stop doing that and instead make your lunch every day. You can could eat and then go out with your co-workers, if that’s important to you.

If you’re going out every day of the week, try cutting back to twice a week. You’ll save $702 a year (the difference between the Buy Lunch Every Day model and the Buy Lunch Twice A Week model) and it won’t feel like a huge lifestyle upheaval. After awhile, if you’re not suffering from Expensive Lunch Withdrawal, then take the leap to making your lunch every day.

You might be the strange one in the workplace, but you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

SAVINGS: $39 a month for me, $98 a month for someone who buys lunch every day and quits cold turkey, $59 a month for someone who goes from every day to twice a week